Mark Duplass is loved by many.
He loves his wife, yes, but he also wants the world to know that you can be in love with your friends, too. “Language Lessons” is a Platonic term for her and Natalie Morales.
As co-writer and co-star with Morales directing, they developed their characters separately, then came back together to see how the two would clash. Morales is attracted to a woman named Carino, named for a Spanish word for “affection,” who has trust issues but still craves love. Duplass grooms Adam as a shy but loving man, desperate for any distraction, while he faces sudden tragedy. They meet online, with Carino as Adam’s Spanish teacher, and wander around each other’s borders as they find themselves befriending.
Both Duplass and Morales executive produced, lengthening the list of projects Duplass has produced over the past year, such as “Edges of Still” and “7 Days”, both of which are clearly pandemic-set. But no one ever says the dreaded P-word in “Language Lessons,” so it’s believable that it’s the distance between Oakland and Costa Rica that’s keeping Adam and Carino on Zoom. As Duplass put it, “Hopefully, people, when they wanted to, would create parallels in a pandemic-type world. And if they don’t want to, and they’re tired of that shit, we don’t put it in their face.” Will throw.”
Duplass told Diversity About falling platonically for Morales, about being the guilt of a survivor and the beauty of a happy ending.
How did this premise come together?
[Natalie and I] The two had a very platonic and professional crush. We’re like, “We should work together. We should be friends.” Then a few years ago, I knew she wanted to get into directing, so I told her to direct the first episode of TV on my show, “Room 104.” hired to do. He just killed it.
I really wanted to share the screen with him. Cut two months after the pandemic. I am living with my wife and my two children. We all like each other, we’re exercising and keeping our endorphins up, doing puzzles and watching ’90s movies. I was taking online Spanish lessons with this institution in Guatemala. We weren’t really small talkers. We finally went deeper – real quick. I thought it was interesting that this kind of video communication, which we understand to border intimacy, was actually facilitating it in this case, actually helping us get closer. I thought, “Oh, wow, a movie with a Spanish teacher and his student, and a complicated relationship could begin, and it’s two-handed, and it’s short, and it’s cheap to make” – my brain just starts walking.
I called Natalie a long time ago before I could develop much. This is a new thing I’m trying to do: Collaborate with people who are very different from me and bring them in as soon as possible so that every project doesn’t feel like one of my old projects. It feels different. That’s why we made it together.
How did you approach co-writing?
We wanted this story to be something that sounded really good, that was hard, but was essentially – dare I say it – healthy, and made you feel that human connection is possible. Because everyone is dealing with a storm right now.
What was on our mind, can you tell a love story that has zero romantic elements? Remove all possibilities of they-they-or-not-they and just be how Natalie and I have experienced our own platonic relationships. Which is that they are just as complicated to navigate as our family and romantic ones! Sometimes even more, because the path defined for Platonic relationships is shorter. When you’re dating, you know what’s going on. It’s like, “We’ll go on a few dates. Now we feel comfortable – here comes the kiss. Now we’re comfortable – here comes the next step. Are we going to be monogamous?” There are milestones. With friends, you can very quickly find yourself in a place where you’ve shared too much or come in too early and scare someone .
Since the idea for a platonic love story comes from your own life, do your characters resemble yours?
adam is one [formerly] Close gay man who was not able to accept himself. This prevented him from being independent and able to express himself for years. I’m really not like that. I’m much more outspoken and go-get-what-you-want. That said, Adam comes along with people very strong, with a lot of love and a lot of care. he wants to care [Cariño]. I definitely have it. I have a lot of, like, survivor’s guilt a [former] Struggling artist. You keep any struggling artist to yourself, and I’m above all trying to protect them and make sure they don’t suffer as much as I did in my teens and 20s.
And it can go well sometimes, or some people may feel isolated from it. I was able to experiment with that element of myself through Adam. I wouldn’t want to speak too much for Natalie, but she has said that she can be a little cautious and distrustful of people at times. We thought it would be perfect to match those things. this person is getting really strong, and [the other person is] Feeling like, “What’s up with this white savior dude?”
The characters’ vulnerability shows up in different ways. For example, you can see that Adam seeks approval in every word he utters during his lessons. How good is your own Spanish? How did it feel to perform in Spanish?
My Spanish isn’t as good as Adam’s, so I had to work to get it there. But I read it in high school, in college, I kept at it. I am semi-fluent. I would have felt really nervous and insecure if Adam was supposed to be fluent.
But we liked the idea that Adam would stumble. It was very interesting for me to perform in my non-primary language. Sometimes, it was great to struggle to find the right words—literally struggling to find it, because we’re improvising—and use that as a metaphor. And then there are times when I literally can’t find the fucking words! I find myself in my head about it. But it was a challenge for which I was fully prepared. I am at a stage in my career where I have no fear of looking stupid. I’m ready to go.
Another interesting element is when you flip between languages. Like when Adam tries to express his embarrassment and says, “I’m pregnant,” which actually means “I’m pregnant,” then says in English, “Why are you laughing at me?” Talk me through those moments.
When you’re making a film like “Language Lessons,” you have to be careful about the boundaries. We only had one cinematic shot, and you’re looking at it. Immediately [on this Zoom screen]. Similarly, when it comes to editorials, there’s only so much we can do: either a big picture or a small picture. When they’re clipped to Spanish or English, that was just another dramatic tool we could use to create variations and narrative divergences. To surprise the audience, to keep them on their toes. and express insecurity or confidence. We tried using it at different times to different effects. It was fun making a movie that only has six in your bucket of tricks, whereas in your typical movie you’ve got about 150. You’re also thinking, “God, I wish I had these other 150.” It was an exercise in working with extremes. And I appreciate that you paid attention to the language thing, because we spent a little time, when is the time when he should answer in English [or] the Spanish?
Whenever someone speaks in front of the film, he is on the big screen. It trains your eye to go only there. And then [editor Aleshka Ferrero] The little picture-in-picture inside begins to throw off increasingly more dramatic moments that your eye isn’t used to seeing. It throws you off and boggles your mind. because some of our early test screenings, people really liked [the movie], but they were zoning out the crap, as we do on Zoom. We had to try to find new ways to surprise people. wake them up
How do you feel about making COVID movies now, while we are less quarantined than a year ago?
It was perfect for us at the time. I loved making those films. They were, at this point in time, the right movies to make. I have this theory that — it’s a bit of a bullshit theory, but I love it — you can spend five years working out your perfect movie, getting that script right. And it’s a great way to make a movie, and I’ve seen incredible movies made that way. Or, you can model a “language lesson”: get your idea, formulate it as much as possible, shoot it right away, while you’re still in the honeymoon phase. While you are still in love with it. You are going to get rough edges, because you are not prepared. But will those rough edges be removed with the pump? I-I-really-make-it-movie-while-I-on-the-second-date-with-this-movie? That rising heat of the film? That’s what “Yet”, “7 Days” and “Language Lessons” represent for me in art. I see this Make stuff like this I think you’ll see a lot out of it from me. I just love the readiness with which they are made.
Have you always known how “language lessons” would end?
we did. In fact, the ending is the first scene we shot due to some logistics. What we knew was that we wanted to see more [platonic relationships] on screen, and we wanted to explore them to the depth with which we see them. Natalie and I were excited to delve deeper into platonic love on-screen and off-screen. If someone walks away and they feel like, “Hey, there’s a lesson to be learned about the way you should treat people,” that would be great. shoo away